12 March 2016

The Blue Sword - Robin McKinley

Image from Goodreads
Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does. Harry is to be trained in the arts of war until she is a match for any of his men. Does she have the courage to accept her true fate?

It's taken me longer to write this review than I would have liked. I read this book as the second book in my firsts series of the year, the second book in the first series selected for the Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge. It was a good book. I realised after I'd read them that the challenge, and Goodreads, actually lists them the wrong way round. 

I think I lost something by reading the books in the order I did. The Hero and the Crown is about Aerin, who is a long lost hero from The Blue Sword, and by reading that first it was almost as though I knew too much about her. The Blue Sword relies quite heavily on the concept of Aerin and the discovery of Harry's similarity to her, I think you can tell this from early on and so you start to look for the book to fit the pattern which spoils it a bit. I can see why the author gets quite vocal in her defensive of the order she wrote the books.

If you can ignore the similarities between the books you get a good read. Written in the 1980s it fits well with the style of fantasy books widely published at that time. Harry's quest is interesting enough to captivate. I do feel that she fell too easily into the sway of her captor, it's a relatively minor niggle. 

My other niggle is that the characters didn't really feel in true danger at any point. Someone always comes sweeping in and just manages to save the day. In The Hero and the Crown, the danger to Aerin, and indeed to Tor, felt more genuine, more appropriate and as such more exciting.

At the end of the book all the loose ends are nicely tied up, which is good if you like that sort of thing. It's neater than you would generally get in a book published more recently and it doesn't leave room for sequels in my opinion. 

This review may leave you thinking I didn't enjoy the book, I did, however I can't help comparing it. 

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